tv [untitled] October 4, 2011 7:30pm-8:00pm PDT
slope of greater than 20%. this particular project does not categorically exempt. nobody disagrees. staff agrees that this project cannot be categorically exempt. it makes clear that the state connects the subdivision with what is allowed by the subdivision. this is a catalyst for development. it is not just looking at a line on a map. by saying that you cannot have an exemption of slopes more than 20% is saying that you are looking at the development that might happen and the fact that there could be environmental impact. there is no categorical exemption here. this is the question before you. this is the more difficult thing for the city or the applicant to prove. it has to be seen with certainty
that there is no possible impact for this to be exempt. you have to connect, and just -- not just the fact of the subdivision, but what would be allowed by that subdivision. this project has been before the city many times. this is the fourth time. it is because it is a very difficult site. we have the geotechnical engineer here. there have been all kinds of problems with landslides and three prior land development projects have gone forward because of problems. at this time, the applicant is only requesting the subdivision. it has been disclosed that there are two lots. a smaller lot a lobby is on the.
the applicant has disclosed that the plan is to develop a lot a and n0t lot b. we're there is an easement on the lot but the city has no right to enforce it. it is not before you. what has been disclosed is that lt a plans to redevelop. in light of that and in light of any development on a lot a may have geotechnical impact, the board cannot make the findings that there is no possible environmental impact. that is something that is in the record before you. i. attached, in my letter today, a couple of letters from 1988. there were prior attempts to develop this parcel. the applicant, in that case, wanted to look at the
subdivisions first and move forward with the project grid if you look at the letter from february 2, i will not read it, but basically it said -- your planning staff said in 1988 that if you get a subdivision first it makes it possible to sell those ourselves to different parties. he -- the mitigation of lot a could not occur because there would be no right to go to the second lot. what your staff said then and still remains true is that the geological formations on these properties are connected.
the lots are physically connected. if you allow them to be subdivided now, they could be owned by different people and that would not be good because you need to stabilize the upper slopes before you develop the bottom lot. that is not before you today. there is no mitigation, no plans into require stabilization of the upper slopes. there is significant evidence before you that there are problems with that, with the whole car sell, -- the whole parcel, it is basically a cliff. the whole thing is explaining why he should not allow a subdivision prior to doing and are meant to review. whatever reason this applicant has for requesting a subdivision, it has to do with a reasonably foreseeable development of the site. we have a lot of ceqa cases, environmental cases the sec, he should not segment environmental
approval. you're supposed to look at the issues as early as possible in the planning prospect. hear, the subdivision is step one, next is reasonably foreseeable development. if you get a supreme court case law that says if you have a receipt -- a reasonable foreseeable devout man, take a look at the whole thing. why not look on the proposed development on the smaller side, which is reasonably perceivable even if we do not have an application yet. that is the point of this. but get it all together so you can figure out how you stabilize the smoke, howdy mitigate the impact, how you deal with the environmental review. this is a site that could affect many parcels are rounded -- around it. there is no certainty that there is no possible environmental impact. you cannot separated because the ceqa guidelines tell you you can. it is not that difficult of a decision. you have been told by the state
that you have to look not just at the staff for the line you're drawing or the paper for approving the parcels, but development that would facilitate that. that is what the categorical exemption says. it is really ironic, it seems to me, for the city to conceive that this project cannot be categorically exempt because it does not mean the simple criteria of the regulation. but it can be seen with certainty there is no possible environmental impact. i actually have a little time left. i am happy to answer questions. basically, we ask that you require this project to undergo environmental review. it cannot be exempted from ceqa. president chiu: in reference the planning department's references to the stability issues. obviously, that was not in the most recent analysis. could you distinguish out there recently came out versus what happened in the past half --
happened in the past? >> nothing has changed in figure in -- in terms of wanting to figure out a way to how to stabilize the slope. there is a more recent geotechnical report from the applicant. when the planning department noticed because recent report, it did not have the benefit of the doctors analysis. he has just come in and done a very thorough analysis. i think declare a debarment was relying on the fact that the applicant has produced a to a technical report but it has never answered the question about, without a product before it, how could you know what stabilization could be needed on other properties whose impact could stretch beyond the property lines. now we have the daughter of reports that you have seen today. he is here to a 22 that, any excavation -- he is here to explain to you that, any excavation will cause an
undermining of nearby properties. and that the city loses control. once the city grants a subdivision, apparently the development rules change for the parcels. they are tied to the parcels and the rules would be different than it would for a single parcel. that is why the applicant was to do that. president chiu: you made a reference to some supreme court case that made reference to it if they could be an impact, we need to fight against the categories that specifically refer to that. >> the supreme court says it cannot sekhmet approvals. there are not categorical all exemptions, but there is negative declaration exemption and the general concept that even if it is a line on a piece of paper, and whether it is annexation or sunning, you cannot then wait for a project some metal -- project submittal.
bozon vs. lasko is the classic supreme court case that says if you have a project that is the first step in the approval and brings momentum for a project, you cannot segment it. in ceqa, if you divide of a project into pieces, here you are doing a subdivision. you cannot point to direct impact yet, but it is opening the door to a different kind of development which would otherwise occur. as your staff as noted, we do not want to divide these properties and lose control of the whole of the site. there is a laurel heights in as the university of california, a supreme court is a 1988.
the case says that if you are approving a project and there is a reasonably foreseeable future project, you need to look at them together. here, is not reasonably foreseeable that the land is going to be developed. it is admitted that it is going to be developed. there is no reason to subdivide except to facilitate development. it is reasonably foreseeable. this is an incredibly desirable piece of property that they are trying to figure out how to develop. the right way to do it is to submit an application, study it, mitigate it, and then consider it. the planning department and the planning commission has the basis for considering approval. supervisor campos: just a quick question. what you say in response to the notion that somehow, if you're talking about future construction, you deal with that
later. this is not the time to take that into consideration. >> that is why i bought a couple of points. ceqa does not allow that. i can appreciate that some supervisors may think, can we do a letter? the regulations say you cannot. this case is meaningful, not just for a role, once to subdivide, you lose the ability to do anything on the second parcel. each parcel will be independent. the category local exemption itself says that when you're looking at subdivisions, you have to consider future development. you cannot do a subdivision if a lot is more than 20% silk. -- 20% slope. the administrative agency
recognized the subdivisions have impact because they are filmset -- because there facilitating development. you do not have the freedom to say, we do not want to look at what comes next, we just want to look at step one and want to pretend as if there is not a step too. you cannot say for certain that there is no possible environmental impact. by deferring, you limit the options for mitigation, limit your ability to control the environmental consequences of the project. president chiu: are you going to use any of your time so that we can hear from your expert? >> he was the next 10 minutes because the issues are substantive. i can use whatever time is left on the substance of the technical issues. president chiu: any more questions to the council? thank you very much. what we proceed to the next presentation? >> good evening.
my name is lawrence carp. i am a geotechnical engineer. i have been working -- president chiu: could use the close to the microphone please? >> i've been working in san francisco for 50 years. i worked on telegraph hill, bilford landing, the end of alpha street. i have been building along in a pure land -- along napier lane. i am familiar with this piece of property because i worked for jack wheaton and davies on their property next door to build a retaining wall for them and a deck about 15 years ago.
this particular property 1171 sansome slopes upward. the average slope from the northwest corner to the southwest corner is 68%. the upper part -- president chiu: 68% compared to the standard of 24%. >> right. about three times the amount allowed for a categorical exception for both line adjustments for 305 n ha -- 305 and 315 for subdivisions.
in the upper part of the slope off of lower california terrace, which has not improved, is a massive sandstone that is very strong. as you move down the slope, it is supported by a shale. that shale is raveling. if you look at the diagram, the last figure, you can see the raveling shale from the back of the farnworth building. the point is -- president chiu: it would be helpful if you could put those pictures on to the projector. >> i think we could, sure.
you want me to use that as a pointer? president chiu: no, you need to speak into it. i think we can see the white you are referring to. >> this is the shale. it is eroding, raveling. you can see it. that line right there is where it comes to surface and occupies this area and down a slope a little bit. i will put of the diagram so you can get an idea of what that looks like. that raveling is taking place right there. you are seeing it looking north coming down the hill. this is the plot of sand some -- this is the block of sandstone right here that was
quarried at the turn of the century. here is this weak shale, slippery, that is supporting this block of sandstone. there is another unit and down below here there is more shale. lot a is to the right of this section. the point is that if you islot a without owning what is lot b, you have no assurance that you can support all of this material above here. on the flank are the apartments .
the geology and typography slopes up from the southeast corner to the northwest corner. if excavation is not done very carefully, having access to the entire property, this all could be lost here. it is a threat to the buildings here. it is an environmental -- a potential very significant environmental impact if this is developed this way. by having a whole lot, if you wanted to develop the lower part, he can go to the top and stabilize the upper part and work down.
if you do not have the upper part to work from, if somebody else owns it and you do not have access to it and you excavate down below, you could cause a massive failure here. in this, along sam some in -- along amnsome street is the area that is unstable. there were quarry operations there. at green street, to the south, that is where the crusher was. for the quarry. if any of you have been there, you the results of that. blasting the quarry for about 30 years. until 1908. it is very important, from an engineering standpoint and a practical standpoint that all of that property is treated as one piece of property.
if the lower part is developed, they are able to stabilize the upper part first. there is no way to assure that would ever happen if the property was divided. was there is a subdivision, you cannot go back. you cannot call for an environmental review when somebody plans for a building. it is too late. once approved the subdivision, ceqa is foreclosed. president chiu: could you talk about the landslide activity on the hill? i have a document from 1998 referring to landslide activity on that site. we all know the major landslide that happened in 2007 that destroyed buildings and restaurants in the area. could you talk about telegraph hill's history in recent years? >> at this site, what i've seen in the last 15 years is -- the
last 17 years is that this knob here at the top has broken off and gone down the hill. the lower part, where all the debris is from previous slides, has trees and it is heavily vegetated. that is the stabilizing force. then there are two retaining wall systems at the bottom with staggered seal nothing. -- seal netting. when vegetation falls, you do not see that. when i was there, a rock the size of a volkswagen it came down about a month ago. last week, we had a jackhammer up to small pieces.
president chiu: you said this happened one month ago? >> yes, that is on greene street. it is right next to the property, but it is not the property. what i see here is the unraveling of the shell on the south flank of the lot. you can see rocks that have come down to vegetation. there are trees there and no houses so no one pays attention to it. a little further up, down below, near the house on lower calhoun terrace, you can see rocks fall. president chiu: any follow-up questions? let me ask the appellants -- any other point you would like to make? you still have some time. ok. at this time, why don't we move
to the planning department for your presentation. you have of 210 minutes with regard to both ordeals. 10 minutes apiece. >> mr. president, are we going to take public comment? president chiu: my apologies. if we could take public comment, each speakership now up to two minutes to speak and you could speak to one, the other, or both of the appeals in your to monetary first speaker. >> i watched the first killing -- the first hearing. we had a lot of folks lined up for 4:00. they had to leave because of other commitments. i do not have the emotionally charged at risk housing that is before you.
i do not have the kind of passionate testimony you heard in the last 3.5 hours. but what i do have sounds boring but it is not resolved it is a law that we are all bound by. it is a series of statutes and we have no obligation but to follow it. when we are looking at a subdivision map, which may seem like a minor deal, why are we worrying about a map? let's just deal with it when it comes up. ceqa does not let us do that. whether it is a subdivision map or a 100 unit condo project, ceqa applies. because it has been around for decades, there is a lot of case law to interpret this. i know it can get dense, but the bottom line is, there are a series of cases, one in particular called the city of antioch. in this case, a sewer line was that issue. not a big building or
construction deal. the proponents of the sewer line made the exact same arguments being made here. they said listen, a negative declaration is for the fine. there is no project at issue here. what is the big deal? the court of appeals overruled that. they said the requirement of an early preparation of eir is designed to provide a piece male review by which corporations emerge from chopping a large project into little ones. another case where a tentative map was issued. the determination of a negative declaration was ok. to make sure and eir was done with a product of such significance. president chiu: thank you. next speaker. >> good evening. i am here to speak on behalf of the telegraph hill dwellers. i am the privilege of -- i have
the privilege of being the current president. although i was just it'll -- although was educated on this project, and people had been talking about for over a decade. this particular side has been a setup and development three times previously in numerous incarnation. the bottom line is, nothing has changed. telegraph hill -- people think of the tower and the northeast side of the hill, but this is the far side of the hill. it is the seat and rocky side of the hill in an area that has not been developed but someday might be. if that is going to be done in accordance with the law and the sensitivity of the shell on the site, an environmental review needs to be done. i had the opportunity to speak with this project sponsored. i asked him whether his previous offer to donate one of the adjacent parcels to a non-profit
group was still in place? he said not for now. in i asked whether he would consider limiting the height on future developments now rather than leave it to a future project. he said no. i am here on behalf of the telegraph hill dollars to support this appeal and urge that see what is applied. -- urged that ceqa is applied. president chiu: thank you. next speaker. >> good evening president chiu and members of the board. my name is joseph lawler. i am an architect in the city and a member of the american institute of architects. i speak in support of the appeal. i would like to talk about the history of the north-facing slopes. on the overhead, i shoot -- i show you the u.s. post survey.
it shows the intersection of sansome and union st. on the map, it does not stop at union. a continues through. that is because the slope of the hill came down gradually. to traverse that slope with a horse and carriage was not possible. in 1885, or 120 years, there has been a history of excavations and st. flattening of telegraph hill on the north and east slopes. what that leaves us with is poor slope stability on the northeast side of telegraph hill. in the 1990's, this cost -- is cause for separate landslides. the landslide caused pires and they mesh fence to be installed. in